Born in a barn in 1909, Leo Fender seems an unlikely father of rock ’n’ roll. But as the man whose company perfected the solid-body electric guitar, his contribution to contemporary music cannot be overstated. Just take a look at the albums whose musicians thought enough of their Fender guitar to put it on the cover: Eric Clapton’s "Layla," Bruce Springsteen’s "Born To Run," Jeff Beck’s "Wired," The Pretenders’s (Chrissie Hynde) "Get Close," Bonnie Raitt’s "Nick of Time." The list of influential artists who play a Fender is just about endless.
Fender’s first solid-body electric guitar was introduced in 1950. It debuted as the one-pickup Esquire before the name of the two-pickup model was changed to Broadcaster. But Gretsch was already using the name Broadkaster on some of its instruments, so the name was changed again.
Between names, the company made the most of its remaining Fender Broadcaster decals by cutting off the word Broadcaster so that only the Fender brand made it onto the guitar’s headstock. Today, collectors call these guitars Nocasters. Only about 60 Nocasters were made, which makes them extremely collectible, but by April of 1951 the guitar would finally get a name that would stick, the Telecaster.
The Stratocaster came next in 1954. Unlike the Telecaster, whose ash body was outlined with rib-digging 45-degree edges, the Strat had a sculpted body that fit players like a glove. Three pickups gave the instrument unprecedented tonal range, as did a vibrato bar that would bend the guitar’s strings when pressed. And instead of the Telecaster’s blond, natural-wood finish, the Strat was offered in a number of colors, including the iconic sunburst (golden-yellow in the middle fading to black on the outside).
Solid-body electric bass guitars were also a Fender innovation. The Precision bass was introduced in 1951. It had a headstock that was virtually identical to that of the Telecaster and a body that turned out to be a preview of the 1954 Strat. By 1957, the Precision’s headstock had been redesigned to mirror the Stratocaster’s, and that version of the bass remains largely unchanged today. The Jazz Bass was added to the low-octave lineup in 1960, and a six-string bass was offered in 1961.
Fender launched two other major guitar lines in the 1950s. The first of these was a pair of low-cost models, the Duo-Sonic and the Musicmaster, both of which were introduced in 1956. These guitars were for kids who wanted to learn how to play without having to shell out the big bucks for a Stratocaster ($274.50 for a Strat versus $119.50 for a Musicmaster). The other initiative was a high-end guitar called the Jazzmaster, which retailed at the time for $329.50. It had a rosewood fingerboard on the standard maple neck, and switches that let the guitarist bounce between rhythm and lead sounds.
In 1962, Fender introduced the Jaguar, which combined a Jazzmaster body with a Stratocaster head. The Mustang, an update of the Duo-Sonic, was added in 1964. Years later, Nirvana...
But the 1960s are best known as the decade when Jimi Hendrix did things to his Stratocaster that nobody had thought possible, from setting it on fire to playing wailing, psychedelic versions of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Alas for Fender, it was also the decade that the company was sold to CBS—for Fender purists, the years 1965 to 1985 are like a 20-year musical drought.
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Joe Satriani stops shredding to spin a story on Shockwave SupernovaDigital Trends, July 24th
Once we get everyone's performances, we can go, “Now, should that be an old Fender Harvard [vacuum-tube guitar amp], or should that be a Marshall turned up to 4?” Since John invented the Reamp [guitar amp/tape recorder interface], we can Reamp ...Read more
Guitars rock at auction, continue to climb in valueazcentral.com, July 24th
In my 25 years plus of buying and selling vintage guitars, I have not seen the genre in a recession. In fact, it just seems to keep getting better. ... We would sell a Daphne Blue, a rare color, Fender Jaguar for $150. Today, that's a $6,000 guitar. A...Read more
At home with Neighbours actor Kip GamblinHerald Sun, July 24th
Bass guitar: I love my 1971 Fender precision bass, which I picked up in New York, and has obviously seen many gigs over the years. Music is a big part of ... Couch: I picked up this couch from a vintage furniture shop in Bondi about 12 years ago. We...Read more
Joe Satriani Takes You Track by Track Through His New Album, 'Shockwave Supernova'Guitar World Magazine, July 21st
One way of looking at Joe Satriani's 15th studio album, Shockwave Supernova, is that it's a concept record—and indeed, the disc does follow a loose narrative that the guitar superstar dreamed up concerning the spiritual death and rebirth of an...Read more
Vintage Vault: 1968 Gibson Trini Lopez DeluxePremier Guitar, July 14th
Both had asymmetrical, Fender-like headstocks and diamond-shaped soundholes and fretboard inlays. The 1966 Gibson catalog describes the Deluxe: “A Gibson custom artist guitar featuring deep modern double cutaway and exceptional electronic ...Read more
Kent man a go-to guy for anything Gibson 335 guitarsTorrington Register Citizen, July 9th
Gelber carries some of the Gibson 335s and the related ES-345 and ES-355 as well as other Gibson, Fender guitars, other vintage guitars, amplifiers and parts. Also on hand are accessories such as strings, a few lower end guitars and the occasional...Read more
Vintage Vault: 1956 Fender Stratocaster (Serial #14220) and 1957 Fender TwinPremier Guitar, June 14th
The Fender Stratocaster underwent its first substantial alterations two years after its 1954 debut. In mid 1956, alder replaced the original ash body wood because it provided better consistency and was easier to finish. Meanwhile, the original neck's...Read more
Ask Amp Man: Beefing Up a Vintage Fender Vibrolux ReverbPremier Guitar, May 27th
In my brief time working with Stevie before his death, I saw that his massive backline included two Fender Super Reverb combos, each loaded with four Electro-Voice 10s—his favorite speakers for these amps. How he managed to blow speakers with such...Read more